Power and the Neocons

In some slightly better news today for the Obama administration, it looks like the GOP faction most interested in foreign policy, our friends the neocons, are viewing UN-Ambassador-designate Samantha Power, a famed human rights advocate, as a Friendly, per this report by John Hudson at Foreign Policy:

Samantha Power’s road to Senate confirmation may be strewn with landmines, but President Barack Obama’s pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is also getting support from a key Republican constituency: neoconservatives.

The source of controversy over Power stems largely from her extended paper trail: a decades-long career as a journalist and Harvard scholar dedicated to human rights abuses and genocide — a calling that in many cases resulted in sharp criticisms of the United States for sitting on the sidelines in Rwanda or failing to order air strikes against Serbs.

But Power’s staunch advocacy of U.S. intervention on moral grounds has long appealed to neoconservatives who share her view that the principle of sovereign national borders is not absolute.

“Power is a good pick because she is a very capable and principled advocate of humanitarian intervention,” Max Boot, a prominent neoconservative author and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Cable. Boot said he has been “dismayed” by the Obama administration’s reluctance to intervene more forcefully in Syria, but said it could do worse than appoint Power as U.N. ambassador. “I think it’s obvious that Samantha has had a meteoric rise due to her great work as a journalist and advocate of humanitarian intervention.”

Perhaps most importantly, Power’s appointment received praise from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a staunch neoconservative on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will get the first crack at her confirmation vote. “I support President Obama’s nomination of Samantha Power to become the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations,” said McCain. He called her “well-qualified for this important position,” and said the Senate should “move forward on her nomination as soon as possible.”

This type of talk should not, however, be confused with a more general approbation of the administration’s foreign policies. WaPo’s neocon blogger Jennifer Rubin offered this hilariously backhanded assessment:

Unlike Rice, who will be within the White House cocoon, Power, if she is clever and determined enough to keep her reputation for seriousness on human rights, will have to pick her spots. But then again, far away at Turtle Bay with no operational control over any instrument of power, she’s no match for Rice (her formal rival) the Pentagon chief, the CIA director (another Obama loyalist!) and the new secretary of state (who fancies pleading with Russia to get “peace” in Syria, thinks the “peace process” can be restarted, wants a special relationship with China and considers Mahmoud Abbas’s new puppet as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority to be a swell choice).

So Samantha Power’s appointment to the most visible U.S. foreign policy post other than Secretary of State really means she’s being “isolated” and all but exiled from real decision-making. Funny how this minimalist attitude about the UN post didn’t keep Rubin and company from inflating Susan Rice’s role in Benghazi! into a scandal of monstrous proportions.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.